Jury to de­cide on death penalty

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Dy­lann Roof was found guilty of all 33 counts against him in the mas­sacre last year of nine parish­ioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The jury next will con­sider a death sen­tence.

CHARLESTON, S.C. | Dy­lann Roof was con­victed Thurs­day in the chill­ing at­tack on nine black church mem­bers who were shot to death last year dur­ing a Bi­ble study, af­firm­ing the pros­e­cu­tion’s por­trayal of a young white man who hoped the slay­ings would start a race war or bring back se­gre­ga­tion.

In­stead, the sin­gle big­gest change to emerge from the June 17, 2015, slay­ings that shocked the na­tion was the re­moval of the Con­fed­er­ate flag from the South Carolina State­house, where it had flown for 50 years over the Capi­tol or on the grounds. Roof ap­peared with the flag in sev­eral photos in a racist man­i­festo.

In his con­fes­sion to the FBI, the gun­man said he car­ried out the killings af­ter re­search­ing “black on white crime” on the in­ter­net. He said he chose a church be­cause that set­ting posed lit­tle dan­ger to him.

As the ver­dict was read, Roof just stared ahead, much as he did the en­tire trial. Fam­ily mem­bers of vic­tims held hands and squeezed one an­other’s arms. One woman nod­ded her head ev­ery time the clerk said “guilty.” In all, Roof was con­victed of 33 counts.

Ju­rors will re­con­vene early next month to hear more tes­ti­mony and de­cide whether Roof gets the death penalty or life in prison. Roof told the judge again Thurs­day that he wants to act as his own at­tor­ney dur­ing the penalty phase.

In clos­ing ar­gu­ments, As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Nathan Wil­liams mocked Roof for call­ing him­self brave in his hate-filled jour­nal and dur­ing his con­fes­sion, say­ing the real brav­ery came from the vic­tims who tried to stop him as he fired 77 bul­lets at Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal church.

“Those peo­ple couldn’t see the ha­tred in his heart any more than they could see the .45-cal­iber hand­gun and the eight mag­a­zines con­cealed around his waist,” Mr. Wil­liams said.

De­fense lawyer David Bruck con­ceded Roof com­mit­ted the slay­ings, but he asked ju­rors to look into his head and see what caused him to be­come so full of ha­tred, call­ing him a sui­ci­dal loner who never grasped the grav­ity of what he did.

The de­fense put up no wit­nesses dur­ing the seven-day trial. They tried to present ev­i­dence about his men­tal state, but the judge ruled that it did not have any­thing to do with Roof’s guilt or in­no­cence.

Roof was just im­i­tat­ing what he saw on the in­ter­net and be­lieved he had to give his life to “a fight to the death be­tween white peo­ple and black peo­ple that only he” could see and act on, Mr. Bruck said.

Mr. Wil­liams’ 50-minute clos­ing ar­gu­ment filled the court with ten­sion. At times, the pros­e­cu­tor raised his voice, say­ing Roof was a cold, cal­cu­lated killer. Some fam­ily mem­bers of vic­tims dabbed their eyes with tis­sues, and ju­rors ap­peared emo­tional when Mr. Wil­liams, af­ter apol­o­giz­ing to them, showed crime scene photos of each per­son killed along­side a small pic­ture of them while alive.

Those pic­tures in­cluded the Rev. Cle­menta Pinck­ney, 41, Emanuel AME’s pas­tor and a state se­na­tor; Myra Thomp­son, 59, who taught Bi­ble study that night — the same night she was li­censed to preach; Cyn­thia Hurd, 54, a li­brar­ian who stayed to sup­port Thomp­son; De­payne Mid­dle­ton-Doc­tor, 49, who friends said sang like an an­gel and was also li­censed to preach the day of the shoot­ings; Daniel “Dap­per Dan” Sim­mons, 74, nick­named for his shiny shoes and fine hats; Sharonda Cole­man-Sin­gle­ton, 45, a high school track coach heav­ily in­volved in the church’s youth pro­grams; Ethel Lance, 70, the church sex­ton who kept the bath­rooms and build­ing im­mac­u­lately clean; Susie Jack­son, 87, who sang in the choir and sent gen­er­a­tions through the church; and Ty­wanza San­ders, 26, Jack­son’s nephew and an as­pir­ing poet who wanted to work with chil­dren.

The pros­e­cu­tor said the good of all those faith­ful church­go­ers pre­vailed over Roof’s ha­tred.

“This de­fen­dant chose to take their lives. He chose to break their bod­ies. But he does not get to choose who they were,” Mr. Wil­liams said.

In a lengthy record­ing played ear­lier at trial, Roof told FBI agents he picked Mother Emanuel be­cause of its his­toric sig­nif­i­cance in the black com­mu­nity. The church is the old­est in the South and one of its founders Den­mark Ve­sey led a failed 1822 slave re­bel­lion that drove the church un­der­ground.

Roof, who was con­victed of fed­eral hate crimes and ob­struc­tion of re­li­gion, said he had felt com­pelled to act be­cause of the way blacks treated whites and said the shoot­ings were “mi­nus­cule” in com­par­i­son.


Dy­lann Roof was con­victed on Thurs­day in the shoot­ing deaths of nine black church mem­bers last year dur­ing a Bi­ble study at a Charleston, South Carolina, church. Roof was con­victed of 33 counts and a jury will re­con­vene next month to de­cide whether he gets the death penalty or life in prison.

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